I told you I might have ADD. One mention of squirrels on my twitter feed, and next thing you know, my mind is chasing them. I would really like to eat a squirrel.
In many countries, like Vietnam, squirrel meat is regularly hunted, prepared, consumed and enjoyed. Some claim the flesh is delicious. From the Guardian:
The owner of a local Budgens supermarket has defended selling squirrel meat as a sustainable way of feeding people and says it has a “lovely” taste.
That’s going down in London, England, and I’m fascinated. Europe isn’t the only continent experimenting and enticing me to follow. The Hmong, or Miao, people are an ethnic group with their origins in the Yangtze River basin. You may not have heard of them before, but they fought for the US in large numbers during the Vietnam War. Our government then allowed them to immigrate to this country in the late 1970s. Many of them opted for farming and hunting. From honest-food.net:
And of all the animals the Hmong hunt, they’re most famous for chasing squirrels. There are lots of squirrels that live in the mountains of Laos, so hunting our squirrels was a natural for them. Legend has it that when the Hmong showed up in the early 1980s, they slaughtered California’s squirrel population; fish and game laws were completely alien to these folks. By all accounts things are better now: The Hmong are, more or less, following the law, and the state’s squirrel population has recovered. But the September squirrel opener still draws hundreds, maybe thousands, of Hmong into the Sierra to chase Mr. Bushytail.
With a long history to draw on, the Hmong have created some interesting flavor profiles. Fresh ingredients are used as the base with squirrel as the star of the show.
I live in Malibu, California, a community known for its proximity to the ocean. My home is nestled into the Santa Monica mountains where all sorts of wildlife from deer to squirrel, from rabbits to mountain lions roam. If I ever found myself living naturally in this environment, there is no question I’d be feasting on these animals.
I’m guessing no small amount of you have recoiled in horror by now. While I’m fascinated with the idea of eating squirrel after watching videos to research this post, the larger and more important lesson is about challenging social norms. We find it acceptable to hunt and devour venison. Why would we not, as a society, experiment with squirrels? The answer is simple. Tradition. Folks are spooked by the unfamiliar. Unless you’re vegan or vegetarian, it makes sense and can be as safe. From the Seattle Times:
Melany Vorass is serious about eating locally. She raises goats, chickens, bees and worms at her Seattle house — and traps squirrels in her front yard for protein.
This is my kind of lady. Do your thing, Melany.
I did a lot of research,” she says. Squirrels tend to have a foraging range of a few blocks, she found. In the Green Lake area they eat a lot of nuts, seeds and bulbs, she says. “There’s plenty for them to eat without going into someone’s garbage.”
But just because an animal is healthy and eating right doesn’t mean it’s free of bacteria or parasites harmful to humans, Hopkins says. Cooking the meat properly, to 165 degrees, would eliminate almost all risk, she says.
That sounds like the system we use to kill bacteria in chicken. Seems we might be missing an alternative to the caged birds, in particular.
Here’s to keeping an open mind,